In Humbert’s Footsteps…
Passing through Ireland, on the west coast of the Emerald Isle, your feet might lead you towards Killala and Ballina, on the steps of Humbert and his French Mayo…
In Mayo county, the story turned into a legend. But very few French tourists know about it. Who among you knew that it’s on this Irish west coast, between Killala and Castlebar, that was founded the French Mayo or, as people here put it, the First Republic of Mayo. What ? French lands in Ireland ? Are you surprised ? Let’s go back to 1798…
In august 1798, the military corps of French general Humbert lands in Killala Bay in county Mayo. His objective is simple : with his 1,000 men, he must surprise the British troops and support the Irish in their fight for independence. Victorious in the battle of Castlebar, the French soldiers are quickly joined by 5,000 Irish militiamen. And last weekend, French and Irish soldiers could again be seen in the streets of Ballina.
Born from the passion of a man for the epic story of general Humbert, In Humbert’s Footsteps is the second edition of one of most successful historical festival of county Mayo. During this three days-long festival, hundreds of re-enactors dressed in Napoleonian costumes replayed the historical battles in which general Humbert took part.
A moment shared between France and Ireland thanks to the presence in town of hundreds of French history-lovers who came especially to participate in the re-enactment. Irish, French, British re-enactors, all fond of the story gathered to offer the 15,000 spectators a show worthy of the best scenes of the French theme park Le Puy du Fou. From the entrance into Ballina, by night, to the glorious victory against the British Red Coats, the audience could relive this shared moment of history between France and Ireland.
Mr Jean-Pierre Thébault, French Ambassador to Ireland was also present alongside An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to celebrate the event. An essential historical re-enactment to celebrate the links existing between France and Ireland. And an event even more symbolic while France gets ready to celebrate World War I, to which numerous Irish soldiers participated on the various fronts.
Among the troops in Ballina was In Humbert’s Footsteps’ founder, Stephen Dunford :
“In Humbert’s Footsteps is a spectacular Franco-Irish success in French Mayo. We are delighted Ambassador Thebault could join us, stay for the whole duration of the festival and experience real Ireland by taking part to our celebrations. We look forward to more Franco-Irish relations in the run-up to 2016 and beyond. It was a unique experience for the Ambassador to meet French reenactors on the same streets where their fellow countrymen would have walked 216 years ago. Erin Go Bragh ! Vive la République !”
A festive day which ended with a traditional round of Guinness under the warm Irish sun !